On Blind Spot

I recently finished reading Blind Spot – A Leader’s Guide To IT-Enabled Business Transformation by Charlie Feld.

Charlie defines the title as: ” A blind spot can be described as a subject that is obscure or unintelligible to otherwise sharp and intelligent people.  Information technology (IT), unfortunately is that kind of subject to many business leaders. I say “unfortunately” because IT can either enable or disable an enterprise to sustain vibrancy and success in the 21st century. ” He then goes on to introduce the main premise of the book: ” This book describes a framework that I have developed and improved over the last 30 years with a variety of organizations, including Frito-Lay, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Delta Air Lines, Home Depot, and Southwest Airlines. This framework consists of four planks that form a platform for change and five phases that pace the execution over several years. Together they create a journey. The beauty of this framework is that it demystifies technology to the non-experts among us, is simple, and—like most principle-based approaches—is durable through the eras and across industries.”

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “My belief is that information technology should not be viewed as a complex functional area. It is an integrating discipline that enables the other functions to operate as a seamless, well-run business.”

2- “The impetus to start making big changes in the midst of turbulent times like these may seem counterintuitive. However, right now you have what may constitute a once-in-a-lifetime license to make dramatic change. The economic downturn has created a global referendum for change, and you hold the keys to change in your organization.”

3- “I realized then that the HOW alone will never drive change in an organization. The WHY and the WHAT must also be powerful and compelling.”

4- “The WHY change (WHY do anything?). This plank gives the platform durability. It more than anything else will enable the organization to mobilize, make investments, set priorities,take risks, and sustain the effort throughout the transformation. It is the business imperative that must be articulated by the executive team, or there is no point in launching a major transformation. Crafting the WHY is the responsibility of the executive leadership team (including the CIO).”

5- “Successful modern enterprises have created a new competitive model that deals with the “and” versus the “either/or.” These enterprises are simultaneously centralized for leverage. operational excellence, and global consistency—and decentralized for insightful decision-making, innovation, and speed.”

6- “It may seem counterintuitive, but the more standardized your systems and processes are, the more flexible you can be.”

7- “Many IT investments fail or fall short because they are positioned as IT projects, when in reality they are business-change initiatives that require IT enablement. This is particularly true when you are defining the WHY change and WHAT your business architecture should be.”

8- “Plan big and implement in small chunks. That, when combined, will dramatically change the customer experience and productivity end to end. Watch for this pattern because it is the best formula for sustainable success, absorption. and affordability.”

9- “The HOW to change (HOW will we do it?). This is the pathway Tom your current model to your future model, and it is where the heavy lifting comes in for both the business and the IT organization. To be successful, the following three principles within the HOW (discussed in detail in this chapter) must be adhered to; HOW Principle I: Define and design a business, application, and technology blueprint and architecture before you begin investment and construction. HOW Principle II: Enforce a “Common Way” for development and quality engineering. HOW Principle III: Be disciplined in your approach to program and project management.”

10- “It helps you understand what you are buying, your investment risk tolerance, the level of quality you consider to be good enough, the timeline and sequencing you require—how you will phase it, where you will start, and more. You just cannot simply leave it to the electricians and the plumbers to make these decisions for you.”

11- “The most successful answer from top-performing IT organizations is to build a culture of delivery. In a delivery culture, hands-on managers lead their teams. Project administrators. human resource generalists, and financial analysts support the teams during the lifecycle of a project. They do not control the agenda, nor are they accountable for the outcomes. Top-tier technicians, architects, and leaders participate in the tollgate sessions and project reviews. These are meant to be productive, working meetings that are non-punitive and owned by the leaders of the organization.”

12- “The WHO (WHO will lead and manage the change?) This is the last plank in the platform. You will see my personal bias revealed in this chapter because, although I believe all of the planks are important, the human aspect makes the real difference! This chapter outlines the key human-resource principles required for sustained successes, including: WHO Principle I: Organization Matters WHO Principle II: Leadership Matters • WHO Principle III: Culture Matters WHO Principle IV: Performance Matters Ml of these human-resource principles matter whether you outsource, smartsource, or go it alone.”

13- “If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that spending most of your time as a leader on the talent dimension is the difference between winning and losing at this sport. Every organization that gets IT right is good at this dimension.”

14- “The first skill required for great leadership is pattern recognition. In essence, this is the ability to see underlying relationships and get at the meaning beneath the surface. Leaders with this skill can distinguish the important factors in a situation from the noise. demonstrate this insight to their colleagues through discussions and decisions, and craft a compelling story of the organizations challenges and opportunities…Having set the agenda, you have to sell your ideas and have the credibility that you can pull it off. Over the years, I have debated with management-development professionals about the difference between skills, competencies, qualities, and other such labels. My reaction has been to not care so much about classifications, but to instead focus on describing what a leader is and why leadership is critical. Character has been the most elusive—it’s hard to explain, but you know it when it is there. Leaders must show personal character. This means doing and saying what’s right, not just what is expedient or what others want to hear—even if it’s at substantial personal risk…The final leadership skill within this category is influence and persuasion. I am convinced that in the next few years, the importance of influence and persuasion skills for leaders will only grow…Only by persuading others to support your course can you move the organization in the right direction on a sustained basis…All of the above—building the agenda and the foundation— are critical pregame activities because the goal of every leader should be to have an impact. However, even teams with great skills and high levels of dedication can fail to have an impact because of their inability to form successful partnerships with their stakeholders, act decisively, or stay focused.”

15- “However, once you have set a course, leaders need to be resilient and solutions oriented. When there are problems—as there inevitably are—leaders will need to emphasize solutions rather than hurdles. When you are engaged in game-changing initiatives, you’re the one who needs to develop new approaches to work over, around. and through obstacles and setbacks. No matter how—or how much—you plan, in the end most great things are accomplished by resilient organizations.”

16- “A high-performing team needs trust, hope, enjoyment, and opportunity.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Blind Spot

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